HC Deb 26 January 1971 vol 810 cc473-507

10.38 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Richard Sharples)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 44, leave out paragraphs (d) and (e) and insert: (d) any premises appropriated to, and used solely or mainly for, public religious worship.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. I think that the House should realise that with this Amendment we are taking Government Amendment No. 4 and the Official Opposition Amendment No. 5, in page 17, line 43—Clause 12—at end insert: Provided that no premises which fall within section 2(d) and (e) of this Act shall be used for any purpose falling within section 1(2) unless the Secretary of State shall have made regulations governing the said use and the fire authority shall have satisfied itself that the said premises conforms with the regulations in respect of the said use.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

On a point of order. May I take it that, although the Amendments are being taken together, we shall be able to have separate Divisions?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Yes, if so desired.

Mr. Sharples

In Committee there was quite a lot of discussion about the exemption, in Clause 2, of churches, although special provisions for including churches, if required, were made under Clause 12. I undertook to have another look at this matter in the light of comments which had been made.

Two points seemed to bother hon. Members. One was that the definition of "churches" was not sufficiently accurate. In particular, the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) said that there was difficulty about the particular definition of "churches" in Scotland. In the light of that discussion, I put down this Amendment which meets, is intended to meet, and, I am advised. does meet, the points raised by hon. Gentlemen. First, I think it is generally agreed that the conventional church as we know it presents a very small, if any, fire hazard to the people who go into it. I am told that the records for the last hundred years show that there has not been one instance of a person being burned inside a church.

Second, there was a feeling and worry that some church halls might inadvertently come under the exemption provisions. The Amendment ensures that three tests have to be satisfied before premises can be exempted. First, the premises must be appropriate to public worship; that is to say, the building must be consecrated for that purpose or otherwise shown to be so appropriated. Second, the premises must be used solely or mainly for public religious worship, and this rules out halls and meeting places normally used for other purposes and used only occasionally for religious services, whether attached to a church or not. Third, the premises must be used for public religious worship. Premises in which religious services are held but to which the public are not freely admitted would not be exempt.

Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

I hope that I shall not be considered discourteous if I say to the hon. Gentleman that his speech was very perfunctory indeed, in fact terse, because it presupposed a detailed knowledge of the debate, and, indeed, of the intention behind it, which is wholly unwarranted in the circumstances. I found particularly complacent the Minister's reference to the fact that churches do not present a high fire hazard. I do not think that we need an ecclesiastical James Watt Street fire before we introduce precautions against such a happening. The reality of the situation is that churches and chapels, by their very nature, constitute a fire hazard.

For example, churches contain wooden pews which are highly varnished, and there is an excessive concentration of hymn books, bibles, and so on. All these things add to the fire hazards, whether there has never been a fire in a church, or not. One has to consider also the recent developments in heating churches and chapels. They now use forms of heating which were not formerly used, and these, too, add to the problems.

Another point to remember—and this was the hon. Gentleman's point in Committee—is that because of the inadequacy of their finances many chapels and churches find it difficult to carry out the expensive modifications necessary to provide safety. This lack of money not only provides an excuse for not carrying out the necessary modifications, but it also ensures that many churches and chapels continue to have heating systems which are inadequate from the point of view of safety.

Far from welcoming the Amendment, we must press the Minister somewhat further, and I turn from discussing the inadequacy of the exits and entrances in many chapels and churches to deal with the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friends and myself, Amendment No. 5, which says: Provided that no premises which fall within section 2(d) and (e) of this Act shall be used for any purpose falling within section 1(2) unless the Secretary of State shall have made regulations governing the said use and the fire authority shall have satisfied itself that the said premises conforms with the regulations in respect of the said use. The situation is that even under the Government Amendment, church and chapel buildings can be used for purposes other than public religious worship. When they are being so used, Parliament's main aim is to protect life. The main purpose is to avoid a repetition of the tragedies which have affected other types of public buildings.

10.45 p.m.

The cause for our concern and the reason for our Amendment is that there is no legal liability, for example, when a building which is properly part of a church or chapel is used for another purpose, such as education. When the local education authority maintains the fabric of a building it is responsible for fire precautions. But when the local authority uses part of a church or chapel for educational purposes there is no such liability on the local authority. The result is that children using the building may be unprotected. In my county, Glamorgan, no less than 24 churches or chapels, or parts of them, are used in connection with education. A dozen are used as dining centres, so that the period of highest concentration of pupils is at the meal time, which is therefore also the maximum danger period. This is by no means uncommon.

The incident at Brent the other day exemplified that in other parts of the country churches and chapels are used similarly. Unless regulations are made to cover that use, under Clause 12, they will be unprotected. The present power under Clause 12 is that the Secretary of State may do so if he thinks fit.

This is a permissive Bill. What our Amendment seeks is not to compel the Secretary of State to make regulations, but to prevent premises being used for educational or other purposes coming within the ambit of Clause 1 until the Secretary of State has made regulations governing such use of those premises.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

Would my hon. Friend not agree that, due to the cheeseparing attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Social Services in refusing loan sanctions for the building of midwifery and child welfare centres, in very many old church halls which are having to be used as midwifery and child welfare centres there are serious fire hazards to many people, especially to women in advanced stages of pregnancy, who would find the utmost difficulty in escaping from a fire?

Mr. John

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I agree. I was merely exemplifying the most common of such uses. As well as clinics, one could exemplify the use of these buildings as libraries, with the added high fire risk of books on the premises.

The purpose of the Amendment is that until the Secretary of State has made regulations covering the premises for this type of use, the premises shall not be used for any of the purposes listed in Clause 1, and until the fire authority has examined the premises and seen them to be fit for the purposes from the fire risk viewpoint.

The Amendment is moved with no spirit, at least, not for my part, of trying to penalise chapels and churches—they certainly owe a duty to those attending to make arrangements for any eventuality in the case of fire—but, as we believe that the main purpose of the Bill is the protection of life and the saving of unnecessary loss of life, the church or chapel should not be used for other pur- poses unless regulations are in being and unless it is thought safe for that purpose.

If the Government are not able to see a way to help the chapels and churches, let them undertake to consider this matter further and consult the chapels and churches with a view to providing some means whereby steps can be taken when chapels and churches are used for these purposes. The alternative is for the Government to withdraw the exemption given by this Measure.

I am still not clear whether, under the Government's Amendment, a church hall is part of a place of public worship. It might easily be mainly devoted to that purpose, in which case the Amendment would seem to be weaker than the original Clause.

Mr. Sharples

I thought that I had made it clear that a church hall is not covered by the exemption, assuming that the Amendment is accepted.

Mr. Ray Carter (Birmingham, Northfield)

On a point of order, though it might appear to be an obscure one. The House will know that insurance companies will use this legislation as the basis for drawing up——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. That is not a point of order, as the hon. Gentleman will know.

Mr. Carter

I say that by way of preamble to my point of order, and it is relevant to what I wish to say. Insurance companies——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order for the Chair. It may be a point of debate at a later stage.

Mr. John

I accept the Minister's assurance that a church hall is not exempted. In view of that, I hope that, under the Bill, the most stringent examination will be given to ensuring that church halls are fit for the purposes for which they are used.

In many Nonconformist chapels, there are vestries and other parts used for just the purposes that I have described. Often they are below ground level, and the only access is a narrow flight of steps. Clearly, there are serious risks when such buildings are used for educational purposes, as clinics, and as libraries. I hope that our Amendment will be accepted, because it is one about hon. Members on this side of the House feel strongly.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I, too, was disappointed when I heard the hon. Gentleman moving the Government's Amendment. There seemed to be not only a paucity of argument in support of it, but the argument itself was misleading.

The Minister said that two matters bothered hon. Members about the subsection. One was the definition. The other was the separation of Scotland. We are now talking about a third objection which was raised by a number of hon. Members in Committee. Their objection was somewhat stronger. They said that churches and chapels should not be excluded. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) devoted a lot of argument in Committee to making sure that churches and chapels were included fully within the ambit of the Bill.

The new definition is an improvement in two ways. First, it avoids the separation of England and Wales from Scotland. Secondly, it ensures that the Church of England and the Church of Wales are not named first, leaving the chapels to be covered as an afterthought at the end of the sentence, although to some extent the Bill still treats the chapels as an afterthought. I am reminded of the old saying that the Church of England is the Tory Party at prayer.

The Minister said that there was no record of any person being burnt in a church since a certain date. He did not say "church or chapel", but "church" —a point of some significance. I do not think the Minister will argue that chapels do not burn. They do. There is in my constituency the remains of a chapel which was burnt down—fortunately with no people in it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) told me tonight of a chapel caretaker who, on searching for a gas leak with a match, found one. Fortunately, the caretaker was alone in the chapel, and the explosion caused no loss of life.

The Minister spoke of churches and he spoke in terms which I as a member of the Church of England could understand, but which a person brought up in the chapel would not necessarily understand. He has said that church halls will be treated separately, but chapels do not have church halls. The difference between chapels and churches has been of wealth. Churches have often been built with donations from the owners of mineral rights, and churches have been able to afford separate halls. Because of their lack of wealth and funds—that is as true today as it ever was—chapel people often have to use one room for a variety of purposes.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

I am following my hon. Friend's argument with great care. Although I accept what he says and the charges he is making against the Government, I hope I am wrong in thinking that he is being a little exclusive. I hope that he will come to the question of mosques and Sikh temples.

Mr. Golding

This I will not do.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) has raised a very important point. Is my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) aware that, in many northern towns, Pakistanis have converted dwelling houses for religious use? For example, in the middle of a row of terraced houses, they could convert two houses for use as a mosque. In old houses there is great fire risk and they are concentrated in areas of heavy population. Should there not be adequate fire precautions in such premises?

Mr. Bob Brown

I have been sympathetically listening to the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), and with all due deference to him, I think that it is a first-class case. But I am sure that he would not wish to offend Methodists, Presbyterians and others who, like myself, were baptised as Anglicans but in adult life changed their Church. I myself, baptised an Anglican, in adult life went to a Methodist chapel. When he spoke of how the Minister had made his case, I took him to mean that Anglicans would understand it but that chapel-goers like myself would have the greatest difficulty in doing so. I hope that he will put this matter into proper perspective, because I am sure that he does not want to give offence to chapel people or Anglicans turned chapel people.

Mr. Golding

When I said that I would not talk about the problems of mosques, it was because I hoped that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) would put the case himself.

Mr. Kaufman

I do not know whether I shall be able to catch the eye of the Chair. Since I have the privilege of representing several thousand Pakistanis, and since in Manchester we are in the happy position of having a new mosque being built, this is an important matter and not one to be taken lightly.

Mr. Golding

I hope that my hon. Friend will deal with the question of mosques and synagogues. I represent a North Staffordshire constituency, and it is against the background of that experience that I must speak. I leave it to other hon. Members to speak for their own constituents against the background of their own experiences. I must make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) that I would not want my position to be misunderstood. Before turning to the Church of England, I want to express the particular difficulties within the Nonconformist movement.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) turns to the long and complex problem of fire risks in the Church of England, since he has drawn a proper distinction between chapels in this matter, would he agree that it is appropriate to spend some time in drawing a distinction between those places where candles are lit so that persons can engage in prayer and those places where matches are struck to see if there is a gas leak?

Mr. Golding

I wish to talk about the problems of candles later.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

As one who was lighting candles in church only last week, and having burned my fingers, I should be grateful for any opportunity to develop this point later.

Mr. Golding

There is often only one room in the chapel, and it is used not only for religious observances but for children's anniversaries, which will take place only once a year——

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to correct that inaccuracy. There are Sunday school anniversaries, church anniversaries, harvest festivals and festivals of the sea. I know of at least seven separate anniversaries which take place every year.

Mr. Golding

But there would be one children's anniversary——

Mr. Kaufman

I trust that my hon. Friend would include synagogues in this definition. Is it not a fact that Jews operate not only on the Gregorian Calendar but on their own calendar, in which the New Year occurs in September or October, so that Jews celebrating the anniversary of the State of Israel can celebrate it on two different days and have two anniversaries in the same year?

Mr. Golding

I will speak from my own experience. I would stray if I talked about Sunday schools and taking home cake to one's brothers and sisters. These rooms, in the Welsh valleys and North Staffordshire at least, are used for political meetings. A Labour Member in a constituency like mine is expected, in a small village like Wood Lane, the birthplace of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), to speak at the chapel as well as the club.

Discussing this matter with some Welsh Members tonight, I found that this room can also be used for concerts. The picture emerges of a room used for religious observance, but also the social and cultural focus of community life.

Mr. Eddie Griffiths (Sheffield, Brightside)

In his references to concerts in places of worship in Welsh valleys, would my hon. Friend distinguish between a concert and the usual Welsh cultural activity which we call eisteddfod?

Mr. Golding

Never in my life have I spoken for Wales and I do not think that any English Member would dare to do so.

Mr. Ashton

My hon. Friend is perhaps aware that the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland where chapels are often places of great distress, incendiary places where all sorts of prevarications take place. Yet the Bill recommends that the Northern Ireland Parliament take account of what is in the Bill. Are we not setting a bad example of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Golding

My lion. Friend the Member for Ardwick will not only speak for the minority interests here, but for Northern Ireland, if he is able to catch the eye of Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have drawn a picture of the room in the chapel. Then a lawyer comes along and says "Look at this room." So we have the words … any premises appropriated to, and used solely or mainly for, public religious worship. That is meaningless in the type of chapel situation I have described. The Minister has been thinking of a Church of England church with separate buildings and has not had the single room in his mind. That was the point made in Committee which the Minister obviously did not take. He does not understand the subtleties and differences.

We have a problem in establishing the exemption of a room used for a kiddies' anniversary. Can anyone imagine someone coming along and saying, "Clause 12 will apply to the chapel and we will draw up rules and regulations, because once a year this is used not as a chapel but as a place for a kiddies' anniversary"? Clause 12 will not be operated. Assume the place is used for election meetings. If there is this minority use, will someone come along and say that, because once every so often the room is so used Clause 12 should be invoked? They will not bother; they will take a chance and that is the indictment of the Clause.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Ashton

Does my hon. Friend agree that the inclusion of the Clause could very well increase insurance premiums on places of worship, because they are not compelled to provide safety precautions against fire?

Mr. Golding

That is another valid point. I hope that my hon. Friend has the opportunity to explain it in detail later. I am not so worried about the insurance premiums. What I am worried about are assurances. Why were the churches and the chapels exempted from the legislation? This is not very clear from the Second Reading debate or the exchanges in Committee. One reason put forward was that assurances had been given to the leadership of the churches and chapels that they would not be included. Some hon. Member felt very strongly about this. When we were discussing the Merchant Shipping Bill last year several hon. Members on this side were infuriated to be faced with the argument that changes could not be made because promises had been made to people outside the House before the Measure came before the House.

Mr. McNamara

When the Labour Government had this brought to their attention they tried to accommodate hon. Members on many occasions on particular things in that Bill. That could well be an example for any other Government.

Mr. Golding

I am pleased that my hon. Friend has corrected me. It is true that the Government then were willing to tell people outside, "We have received even stronger representations from Members of Parliament."

Mr. Booth

Has my hon. Friend overlooked that if the Government tried to accommodate hon. Members on this matter by a subsequent change in another place there is a very special body of church representation in that other place, and we could not be assured that it would receive the objective consideration that it has in this House?

Mr. Golding

That is a very valid point. I would never on principle accept a situation whereby we were told in this House that the changes must be made elsewhere. We are here to bring about changes in this House. That is why we must tonight draw attention to the inadequacy of this provision in so far as it relates to churches. We understand that assurances have been given to church leaders. What considerations have led those leaders to ask that churches and chapels be exempted from the full provisions of the Bill? We can only surmise. We can appreciate that perhaps not the Church of England so much but certainly the chapels would be faced with crippling bills if the Measure were applied to them. It is a possibility that the cost of applying the Bill has led the church leaders to take a chance. Also, the Bill imposes certain obligations; it will make life more difficult for the people upon whom the responsibilities are being put.

Again, this can be a reason why the leaders have come and said, "Please do not apply this legislation to the churches and chapels." Of course, we have to appreciate their difficulties, because the chapels have not a great deal of money. One reason they are prepared to take the chance is that there has not been a major disaster there. What we want to argue tonight is that one should not take that chance; the leaders of the churches should not be taking that chance, because they are literally playing with fire. Often, it would not be they who would be taking the chance. What they are asking is that their congregations take the chance. I take the point my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West was making, that we may be misunderstood by the chapels. It must be driven home that we are not concerned to add additional burdens to the deacons or anyone else, and that what we are concerned about is that they explain very carefully to their congregations the type of risk which is taken and the type of risk they are asking the Government to take on their behalf.

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

I am impressed by the clarity of my hon. Friend's mind, and I am sure he would not wish to be unfair, but there does seem to be a difference between his approach to the financial position of the chapels and his approach to the financial position of the churches. We have all heard the expression, "Poor as church mice." Quite frankly, speaking as an Anglican, I am surprised by the way he constantly refers to the Church of England. I think of my local parish church on a council house estate. It is the only parish hall on the estate. It is the practice for that parish hall to be used for a variety of purposes. Yet that church is beset with continual financial problems. I hope that, in his wisdom, my hon. Friend will take that point into consideration.

Mr. Golding

I am most impressed by that intervention, although I confess that I have in mind, when talking of the finances, the relative poverty of the chapels, for they are poor, and have not the wealth one realises is behind the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I apreciate that individual churches are poor; I appreciate that vicars and curates are among the most badly paid men in our society, though they are men doing a useful job in our society; but, above that level—in the cathedrals—there is wealth. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners have great wealth at their disposal. This is why it is important to separate out the church and the chapel, because I shall be arguing later that there is no reason for the Church of England to have asked for this exemption.

Mr. Kaufman

Surely my hon. Friend is being a little exclusive, "Church" does not necessarily mean a Church of England church; there are Catholic churches as well. I hope that his attack —with which I should not associate myself—upon the Church of England does not include the Catholic Church, to which his remarks do not apply. Indeed, in my constituency it is labouring under grave disabilities, because of the failure of the Government to amend the law satisfactorily in order to help it raise money for school building.

Mr. Golding

I was distressed to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick, use the word "attack". I have not attacked the Church of England; I have merely said that it is wealthy. If every time we described a man as wealthy we were accused of attacking him, we should live in a state of war—and I say that looking at the benches opposite.

Mr. Ashton

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons why the churches are now having difficulty is the dilatoriness of the present Government about amending the Gaming Acts? Somebody has found a loophole in the Acts with regard to whether or not churches are taxed as charities and so on, and every charitable organisation is now distressed. We on this side of the House have been waiting for some months for the Home Secretary's Department to amend the legislation, to enable those people to install proper fire equipment, and much of the poverty that exists in the churches is the fault of the Government.

Mr. Golding

It is very important indeed that church and chapel, and the Roman Catholic church, obtain a reasonable income from which they can not only pursue their own faiths, but can also meet the provisions of this Bill. What one must think carefully about is the fact that it is probably because of lack of money—and we have not been told; I am having to test the Minister by speculating—that the chapels cannot provide adequate safeguards against fire. I am saying that there appears to be a lot of money in the Church of England, but I am not saying that that is a bad thing.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

My hon. Friend has been very tolerant, and I thank him for that. But I am quite sure that he would not wish hon. Members to feel that he was in any way antagonistic towards the Church of England. He will especially bear in mind that the Church of England may very well be moving to the left in view of the recent pronouncements by the Archbishop of Canterbury about apartheid. He will perhaps want to modify his view that the Church of England is a place for the Tory Party to pray, and if the Church of England carries on with its progressive pronouncements the Tories may very well have to find somewhere else to pray.

Mr. Golding

I hesitate over the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. David Stoddart), because he has introduced a sour political note into the debate this evening. I do not think that this is a matter of any significance. I take the point that we must not be antagonistic towards the Church of England, and I acknowledge that in speaking strongly for the chapels I had my own interests in mind. But we must have better reasons than we have been given for the exclusion of churches and chapels from this Bill. We must be given better reasons for taking chances. If it is thought necessary to take parlimentary time to legislate for other buildings, it is necessary to legislate for chapels and churches, too. The onus of proving that they should be exempt lies four-square with the Government.

11.30 p.m.

I want to suggest a few reasons why it is important to include them in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked me not to mention candles, but he was not the first to use this argument and draw attention to its importance. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West drew attention to the problem that exists where candles are lit and where there is an abundance of cloth and other material. Anybody will appreciate that where there is a fire, there is a fire hazard. With the burning of candles, one has a situation which could lead to a fire hazard.

There is one difference today from 50 years ago. In lighting a candle where there is oil central heating, there is the possibility of hazard. Fifty years ago, there was no hazard with the pile of coal in the corner. Oil is a new hazard. Natural gas is a new hazard.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

I would like to correct my hon. Friend. On two occasions, as I recollect, rather than on merely one occasion, Canterbury Cathedral was burnt down in the Middle Ages, when fire was a considerable hazard to churches. We can assume that in this day and age, when oil has been added, the hazard has not become any less than it was in the Middle Ages.

Mr. Golding

Representing a coal mining constituency, I would say that the hazard from gas and oil is infinitely greater than the hazard from coal. When I spoke of the hazards of natural gas, hon. Members opposite said "Hear, hear"—

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

When talking of the danger of lighting a candle, would not the hon. Member agree that if he lights it at both ends, the danger is at least doubled? This is the most dangerous part of what he has said.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

I was asked to come in because my hon. Friend was making a significant contribution. A moment or two ago, he said that where there was a fire, there was a fire hazard. I submit to him that where there is a fire, there is a fire. There could be a fire hazard—that is, the possibility of a fire—without a fire having occurred. Will my hon. Friend, who is well-informed on this subject, explain the difference between a fire and a fire hazard?

Mr. Golding

When he speaks of burning the candle at both ends, perhaps the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill) is referring to events in Manchester during the past fortnight.

Mr. Kaufman

What does my hon. Friend mean by that? These are serious matters, and there are several hon. Members from Manchester who would like to know.

Mr. Golding

I think that the difficulty which my intellectual hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick has is that he starts his reading of the newspaper from the front page, whereas most of us start at the back page.

Mr. English

As regards a paper in Hebrew, my hon. Friend may not be correct.

Mr. Golding

I cannot allow to pass unnoticed the conundrum posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). I have referred already to the situation in Wood Lane, the village where he was born and in which he is much revered. As he says, there is a difference between a fire and a fire hazard. There can be a fire hazard without fire, but not, I think, in the circumstances we are discussing. If my hon. Friend had been listening for the last half-hour, he would have realised that we are arguing on a narrow point.

Mr. Fernyhough

Although I have been denied the privilege of listening in person, my envoys have been constantly moving back and forth to keep me well informed of every observation by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Golding

To return to the——

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney Central)

In the smaller places of worship, a fire risk is often created by the use of a paraffin stove. Will my hon. Friend direct his attention to that before returning to whatever it was he was about to return to?

Mr. Golding

By a strange chance, that was the very next point I had noted down.

Mr. Kaufman

Before he passes from the question of candles, may I direct my hon. Friend's attention to the situation in this House? Worship takes place here on every sitting day. There are many places which, under the Amendment, might be regarded as established places of prayer in which worship takes place far less frequently than once a day. If they are defined as places of religious worship, might not this House also be regarded as a place of religious worship? During the recent work to rule by the electricity workers—or should I say the dispute provoked by the Government—electric lighting was not available in this Chamber and hon. Members brought in candles and thereby exposed this building to fire hazard. The Wilberforce Committee, a loaded committee consisting of two known supporters of the Conservative Party, one a former candidate for Hull, is considering its report. Lord Wilberforce said it would report——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions must be brief.

Mr. Kaufman

If the Wilberforce Committee reports in a way that is unsatisfactory to the power workers, it may be necessary for them to resume working to rule, in which case hon. Members may have to bring in candles to the Chamber once again.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Mr. Speaker, is it not necessary for interventions to be relevant to the matter under discussion?

Mr. Speaker

Order. What I have been waiting anxiously for is somebody to talk about the Amendment.

Mr. Golding

Possibly, Mr. Speaker, you are at some disadvantage in that you were not present when I started the argument.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I was referring only to what I have listened to since I have come into the Chamber.

Mr. Golding

This places me in some difficulty. I do not want to go over all my arguments again.

Mr. Bob Brown

On a point of order. I am sorry that you were not in at the commencement of the debate, Mr. Speaker. Had you been here to hear the Minister's speech, you would understand why hon. Members on this side of the House are putting probing points, as it were, to try to elucidate some information for the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Lyme (Mr. Golding), who in his turn is trying to draw from the Minister the type of thing we ought to have had from the Minister if he had treated the House properly.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order. What was puzzling me was that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme needed so much help.

Mr. Golding

I have thought about that matter on several occasions, Mr. Speaker, and I intend to raise it in another place as a slight on my professional competence.

I was trying to get away from candles and had been reminded about paraffin, although we do not call it paraffin any longer. We refer to oil stoves. If I use the phrase oil stove, the House will appreciate that I mean paraffin stoves.

Shortage of money—and this, Mr. Speaker, is where you have not quite seen the argument—may itself be a fire hazard. It may be the very reason why the chapels should not take the chance. It may be the reason this Bill should be applied to all places in which religion is practised.

Where there is a shortage of money in the coffers, there could be faulty heating apparatus. This was a point constantly made in Committee to the Minister. He has not mentioned this argument at all tonight. In fact, what distressed us was the way in which he failed to consider and answer the serious points put to him in Committee. It was derisory treatment of his own Amendment. Because of the lack of money, it may well be that one will get faulty heating apparatus.

11.45 p.m.

Another point concerns the paraffin stove, the oil stove. We all know that oil stoves are used in many religious buildings. We know from the statements of coroners and articles in the Press that oil-burning appliances are very hazardous indeed. They are dangerous. They can be particularly dangerous to two classes of person who tend to be in the majority in their use of churches and chapels. I refer to the young and to the old. I do not think that this point has been made before. When dealing with the normal congregation, we are not dealing with a cross-section of the population; we are dealing with a group which is often comprised of the elderly and the very young. It is in these circumstances that we must pay attention to fire hazards.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way in this generous manner. It is true, is it not, that in these small places of worship, particularly with small groups of the population, displays of evangelical fervour, often in crowded rooms, can add to the fire hazard? Does my hon. Friend agree?

Mr. Golding

At an early age I worked for the Cheshire County Fire Service as a clerk on the switchboard. I could tell hon. Members of my experience. However, if I did so, you, Mr. Speaker, would probably consider it irrelevant. There is no need for me to make such a personal contribution tonight, because we have with us an hon. Member who has great experience of the Fire Service which he will no doubt relate to us if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Ashton

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest disasters in recent months was the tragedy at Ibrox Park which took place when people were in a very emotional state because of goals being scored? Is that not a parallel with chapels and churches where people also get emotional through religious fervour, the singing of hymns, and so on? If a tire occurs it becomes a dangerous place.

Mr. Golding

I do not accept that. This is the kind of matter about which the expert whom we have with us tonight, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), will be talking later.

I recall that an earlier interruption concerned the smallness of the room. Wherever a number of people gather together, particularly where they are very young and very old, and there are oil burners or paraffin stoves, there is a fire hazard. It is important that in these places certain basic rules should be applied.

I was told tonight of two fire hazards that could exist in Welsh chapels.

Mr. Kaufman

Earlier on my hon. Friend said that he would not deal with Wales because he did not feel equipped to deal with that country. I am interested to know why he has changed his mind.

Mr. Golding

It could be because of growing confidence. I shall not deal with the Welsh problem, but merely take an example from Wales. A Welsh lady told me tonight about what she considered to be a fire hazard in Welsh chapels. She had in mind the ladies' gallery in those chapels. As there is normally only one door for entry and exit in a chapel, there can be a fire hazard in the most normal circumstances.

Interjections apart, I think that I have made out a prima facie case for the Government's accepting the onus of proving that there is no reason for chapels and churches to be fully covered by this Measure. We are not satisfied with the reply that Clause 12 can be invoked if necessary because, when a discretion of this sort is given to people who are badly overworked—and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) will have a lot to say about the overworked Fire Service—one has reason to think that it will not be used as it should be. In those circumstances, the onus is on the Government to demonstrate clearly why the Bill should not be applied to chapels and churches.

There has been a certain amount of hilarity during my contribution. This was inevitable in the circumstances, but there is a serious point to be made. If there is a disaster of the kind to which I have referred, we on these benches will place the responsibility for it full square where it should rest. We feel very strongly about anyone taking a chance by not providing proper safeguards, merely to save himself the trouble of doing so, or to save expense.

I have dealt with the genuine chapels and churches, but in Committee another point was raised, and it has not been dealt with by the Minister tonight.

An Hon. Member

He did not deal with anything.

Mr. Golding

That is true. The hon. Gentleman tried to mislead us. His speech showed his contempt for the House. In Committee several of my hon. Friends argued that it would be very easy for groups wanting to claim exemption from the provisions of this Measure to establish themselves as religious groups. This would be easy. We are not clear who has the responsibility. The duty of a Government spokesman is to bring in some clarity, and not to mumble at the Dispatch Box for two minutes and then sit down. That is contempt. On this point we are not clear as to how the situation has been changed by the introduction of the new wording. In Committee, hon. Members were told that, for the purposes of the Bill, religious groups would be determined in the same way as in the rating process. Will the new wording alter that? If it does not, a serious situation will easily arise by the use of village halls by hippy-type individuals claiming that they are a manifestation of some new cult or religious community. if one establishes oneself in a shack, only Clause 12 will apply. The whole Act will not apply. I am not sure that these hippy groups exclude lawyers, and if the hippy lawyers were to argue in this way—there are many worse things which I could say about the lawyers in the House——

Mr. Clinton Davis

I agree with much that the hon. Gentleman has said, but it is a little cheap to mount yet another assault on the profession which I represent, which at present is fighting desperately for its rights on the Courts Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) represents the Bar. It seems that the hon. Gentleman is spoiling his speech by constant unjustified attacks upon the legal profession.

Mr. Golding

The interjection puts the matter in perspective. The viciousness of my attack was not directed at the lawyers who litter these benches but at the hippies. We should have to apologise to them for even suggesting that they would take into their communities the professional lawyer.

The point was seriously put in Committee, and it has not been answered, that if a pop group, a hippy group or any group says to whoever has the responsibility, "We are a religious community". what will be the response? What procedures are there under this Measure for determining what is a religion? The legislation is badly drawn if it empowers an inspector to decide whether a person's beliefs should be dignified by the word "religion".

12 midnight.

I feel strongly that the Government would be well advised to put the same restrictions and controls on churches and chapels that they are putting on other buildings. If they are not prepared to do that, they owe us a full explanation of their reasons for putting at risk all those who go to churches and chapels.

Those are my points. I have spoken briefly because I wanted to echo the brevity of the Minister, and I am sure that my points will be developed by many of my hon. Friends.

Several Hon. Membersrose——

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Sharples.

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have called the Minister, who was the last hon. Member to speak from the benches opposite, when clearly a great many of my hon. Friends wish to speak and to examine carefully the definition given by the hon. Gentleman in moving his first Amendment. This is of tremendous importance. In addition, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), who has an Amendment in his name, did not rise, knowing that other hon. Members wished to speak. With respect, is it not against the conventions of this House to call the Minister to reply to the debate when other hon. Members wish to speak?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The selection of speakers is a matter for the Chair. It is a difficult responsibility, not made easier by this sort of point of order. It is not for me to criticise the content of speeches, but I can take a certain view of their length.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) has raised a number of points of a general character. However, some of us were members of the Standing Committee which considered the Bill, and I, for one, wanted to raise a number of rather more detailed matters. There is considerable doubt about the meaning of some of the words in the Government's Amendment, for example. In addition, I wanted to raise two specific matters, hoping that the Minister would clarify the position in his reply. Though I always hesitate to question a Ruling from the Chair, I hope that you will feel able, in view of what I have said, to give hon. Members on this side of the House the opportunity to raise points on which they would like clarification.

Mr. Speaker

It may be that the Minister will give way to hon. Members, when they will be able to put their points to him. But hon. Members have to realise that very, very long speeches have the effect of squeezing out other hon. Members who may want to speak.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

Further to that point of order——

Mr. Speaker

There can be no further point of order on my selection of speakers.

Mr. Mendelson

On a new point of order——

Mr. Speaker

On a new point of order. Mr. Mendelson.

Mr. Mendelson

Many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite will bear me out when I say that one's experience of Committee stages is that, if a Minister makes only a brief speech in moving an Amendment, it is customary for hon. Members on the back benches to have an opportunity to deploy their arguments, not merely by interrupting the Minister's reply, as you have suggested, but by making their points in their own way. Then it is for the Minister to wait a little before rising to speak a second time. That is the point of order that I put to you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. The Chair must form its own judgment on these matters. I have heard repeatedly encouragement to the Minister to answer certain questions, and I am now giving him the chance to do so. Mr. Sharples.

Mr. Wellbeloved

On a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

if it is to do with the selection of speakers I will not take it. No point of order arises.

Mr. Wellbeloved

My point of order is to do with the procedure. So far only two hon. Members on the Opposition side have spoken. I am not querying the selection of speakers. I only hope that this is not a prelude to a Closure Motion on a matter of such vital importance as this.

Mr. Speaker

That again is not a point of order. These are not matters on which the Chair makes its own rules. The House makes the rules; in entrusts certain authority to the Chair. The selection of speakers and the decision when the Chair should accept a Closure Motion are invested in the Chair by the rules of the House. The Chair does not take upon itself these matters. Mr. Sharples.

Mr. Carter

On a further point of order. You said, Mr. Speaker, that those Members on this side of the House who had not had an opportunity to put their point of view could ask the Minister to give way. How do we know that he will give way?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member does not know. Mr. Sharples.

Mr. Kaufman

On a further point of order. Totally accepting what you say, Mr. Speaker, and not challenging it in any way, am I to understand that the fact that you have called the Minister does not necessarily mean that that is the end of the debate and, if in your judgment you think it appropriate, you will, after the Minister has finished speaking, perhaps decide to call other speakers from both sides?

Mr. Speaker

No Motion has yet been made. I will form my own judgment at the time. Mr. Sharples.

Mr. Sharples

I think it would be convenient if I intervened at this stage. We have spent some time on this question of churches. I put down my Amendment in the genuine belief that it would meet the reasonable points which were discussed in Committee in a reasonable way—perhaps not in the way in which they have been discussed this evening——

Mr. Callaghan

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman because he has said that he is intervening, and that means that he is not winding up the debate. We are a little concerned because the sinister figure of the Patronage Secretary has flitted across the House, and there are other points which hon. Members wish to take up. All I ask the Minister to do is to represent to his hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary that, if he wants to make progress on the Bill, in view of other things that have happened, he should not move the Closure Motion, and I recommend him not to do so at the end of the Minister's speech.

Mr. Sharples

I am sure my hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary will have overheard what was said by the right hon. Gentleman, but that is not a matter for me.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) spoke about the Amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) and himself, which goes much further than my Amendment. I am not sure that it was appreciated by those who put down the Amendment that its effect is that as soon as Clause 1 comes into effect—which would happen very quickly after the Bill is passed—worship in all churches and chapels will have to stop until regulations are made under Clause 12 relating to the use of churches for worship, and until all churches had been inspected for the fire authority to see that they complied with these regulations.

Mr. John

I do not think the hon. Gentleman can have read the Amendment with the great care that he habitually uses. It provides that … no premises which fall within section 2(d) and (e) of this Act shall be used for any purpose falling within section 1(2) … Those purposes include:

  1. "(a) use as, or for any purpose involving the provision of, sleeping accommodation;
  2. (b) use as, or as part of, an institution providing treatment or care;
  3. (c) use for purposes of entertainment, recreation or instruction or for purposes of any club, society or association;
  4. (d) use for purposes of teaching, training or research;".
It is not our purpose to prevent the use of premises as churches, but to try to prevent their being used for outside purposes when they are unfit by reason of being a fire hazard for such use.

Mr. Sharples

I appreciate that point but the hon. Gentleman has overlooked the terms of Clause 1(2)(e), which reads: use for any purpose involving access to the premises by members of the public, whether on payment or otherwise. I am advised that, if the Amendment were accepted, it would mean that worship in all churches would have to cease until regulations were made under Clause 12. I am sure that is not what he intended.

The hon. Gentleman for Pontypridd and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) spoke about church halls and buildings which might be used as libraries or for school meals and so on. These buildings would not be premises appropriate to a use solely or mainly for public religious worship. They would be caught by the Bill if they were used mainly or even largely for purposes of that kind. There is provision in Clause 12 to catch any premises which might be used for purpose of that kind occasionally. The generality of buildings used in that way and not solely or mainly for worship would be caught by Clause 12 as it stands.

Mr. Carter

I tried to raise a point of order earlier which I concede was rather obscure. Nevertheless, it is a point which requires answering at this early stage in the debate. It concerns fire insurance. Chapels and church halls require to be insured. The Bill will be used by the insurance companies to determine their insurance policies. But nowhere in the Bill is "fire" defined. This must be answered because it is critical to the Bill. What constitutes fire? I looked up the legal definition in "Words and Phrases": There is no fire within the meaning of a policy of fire insurance unless there is ignition either of the property insured or of the premises where it is situated. Heating or fermentation not accompanied by ignition is not sufficient. That which is ignited must be something which was not intended to be ignited. Hence, if property which is in proximity to a source of heat in an ordinary house is damaged by the excessive heat thrown out but is not actually ignited, the damage is not within the policy, since there is no ignition, except such ignition as was intended, and nothing has been burned except that which ought to have been burned. This is a critical point for the Bill——

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the Minister gives way, the hon. Member must make a short intervention. I think that he has already gone his whole length.

Mr. Carter

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is, nevertheless, a critical point for the Bill and may cause considerable confusion within insurance policies unless we write in a precise definition of what constitutes fire. At this early stage in the debate, the Minister should make his intentions clear.

Mr. Sharples

That point, of course, goes far wider than the simple question of churches. Also, the Bill is not concerned with the protection of property but with the protection of life. The insurance question arises almost wholly in respect of property.

Mr. McNamara

I am concerned about the Minister's definition of "solely or mainly", because of the developments in ecclesiastical architecture, whereby the main body of what is generally used as the church for appropriate services is used for other purposes as well, but the altar area may well be partitioned off. Is the criterion the main purpose for which it is built—the holding of religious services or is it the fact that it may be used for other purposes, which may take up more time than the services?

Mr. Sharples

It is not the purpose for which the building is built but the use to which it is put. A building may be built as a church and would not be exempt for that reason if it were used for other purposes.

The main theme of the amusing but somewhat long speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme was simply that churches and chapels should not be excluded in this way. We rambled into different kinds of churches and things like that. This is a straight difference of opinion between us. We believe that churches and chapels should be excluded because there is no appreciable fire hazard to people inside them. The hon. Member has different views. It will be for him and his hon. Friends to express their opinion in the Lobby.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Francis Pym)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Speaker

The Chair is very much affected by the length of speeches in a matter of this sort. I am not prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's Motion now. I am prepared to allow one or two short speeches.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

I will keep my speech brief but I want to press the Minister to reply in a little more detail on the wording in the Amendment. I accept what he has said, that the Amendment is tabled with the object of meeting points made in Committee by hon. Members. The question to which I wish to address myself is whether it succeeds in meeting our objections. I rather suspect that it does not, although it probably was intended to do so.

I want to press the Minister on two matters. First there is the question of "soley or mainly". He has given us an example of the question of use and I would invite him to intervene during my speech to answer my question. Often a church has attached to it, or adjacent to it, a memorial hall, which may be built in materials inferior to that in which the church is constructed, from a fire hazard point of view. The church is being used regularly for normal religious purposes, two or three times on Sundays, once or twice a week for choir practice and so on. As against that the church hall is used fairly frequently for dances, gatherings, and so on. In these circumstances, does the Minister say that such a building would or would not be excluded from the operation of this Measure, as a result of the Amendment?

Mr. Sharples

It would be excluded.

Mr. Jenkins

That is a satisfactory answer but I wish it could be more clearly expressed in the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will undertake to look at this again between the time when the Bill goes to another place and returns to this House. That assurance is entirely acceptable, but it would be better if it were spelled out a little more clearly.

The only other point is the question of a public religious service and what accurately constitutes such a service. At one time it was possible to be fairly clear about what a religious service was. With the increasing informality in religion it seems that from time to time there are occasions, one might almost say happenings, which may or may not be regarded as religious services. Perhaps some definition of what constitutes a religious service is necessary.

What I would commend to the hon. Gentleman is that there should be included in another place some definition Clause which will define what is meant by "solely or mainly" and what is meant by a religious service. If this were done the hon. Gentleman would have gone a considerable way to meeting our objectives. At the moment I do not think that he has gone as far as he thinks he has.

Mr. Booth

We should be less than fair to the Minister if we did not recognise that the Amendment is a genuine attempt to improve the Bill, and was made very properly in response to representations in Committee.

It is a measure of the great interest in the Bill that we see so many hon. Members here tonight who did not serve on the Committee, including myself. We have become accustomed over several years to find that Report stages have been almost a club for those who serve on the Committee, but that is not the case tonight. I therefore feel justified in pressing upon the Minister certain points that seem to me to be direct and pertinent.

First, we need a better definition of what is meant by the expression "mainly for". If it means that the building's use for any one other purpose is not greater than its use for worship, that will be clear. But we are not clear whether it would cover the case whether, for example, the building was used eight hours a week for worship, six hours a week for bingo, five hours a week for whist, and three hours a week for the women's sewing circle, so that all activities other than worship combined made up a much longer time than that spent in worship.

Second, when the Minister initially referred to the low fire risk that is generally assumed with churches and other places of worship, he must have been referring to traditional church buildings. But we are moving into an era in which it is possible that there will be many new forms of church construction, with many new building materials brought into use. Therefore, it is only fair to urge that caution be used in making references to past, known fire hazards when preparing a Bill that will operate into the future.

Third, why does the Amendment refer to public religious worship"? I accept that we can make a legal distinction between public and private religious worship, but I cannot understand how we can define a difference in fire hazard to human life in those terms. I cannot see that the fire hazard will have greater respect for human life if it is in a place where there is private religious worship than in a place where there is public religious worship. Therefore, it seems to me that the word "public" in the Amendment is unnecessary or dangerously misleading.

Fourth, central heating used in church buildings is somewhat different from that used in other public places. Many of us can think of places of worship in our constituencies that require rapid heating for the weekend after having stood cold for five or six days. This introduces a special aspect of fire risk.

Last, I return to the point so eloquently raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). Is it right to distinguish on the ground that a place is used for worship, if one is really seeking, as the Minister is properly seeking in the Bill, to safeguard human life from fire hazard? If we are to recognise that as the prime purpose of the Bill, we must recognise that in the Amendment the Minister is departing

from a principle on which he claims the Bill is based.

Mr. Pymrose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Wellbeloved (seated and covered)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not unprecedented for a Closure Motion to be moved before the Opposition's chief spokesman has joined in the debate?

Mr. Speaker

There can be no possible point of order at all on my acceptance of the Closure.

The House divided:—Ayes 143, Noes 36.

Division No. 76.] AYES [12.28 a.m.
Adley, Robert Hannam, John (Exeter) Normanton, Tom
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Haselhurst, Alan Onslow, Cranley
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Hastings, Stephen Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Hawkins, Paul Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Atkins, Humphrey Hicks, Robert Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Higgins, Terence L. Pink, R. Bonner
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Biggs-Davison, John Holland, Philip Price, David (Eastleigh)
Blaker, Peter Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Raison, Timothy
Boscawen, Robert Howell, David (Guildford) Redmond, Robert
Bowden, Andrew Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Reed, Laurence (Bolton, East)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hunt, John Rees, Péter (Dover)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus,N&M) Iremonger, T. L. Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) James, David Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Carlisle, Mark Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Chapman, Sydney Jessel, Toby Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Chichester-Clark, R. Kershaw, Anthony Sharples, Richard
Churchill, W. S. Kilfedder, James Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Clark, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Cooke, Robert King, Tom (Bridgwater) Soref, Harold
Coombs, Derek Kinsey, J. R. Speed, Keith
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Knight, Mrs, Jill Spence, John
Cormack, Patrick Knox, David Sproat, Iain
Critchley, Julian Lane, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Crouch, David Le Marchant, Spencer Stokes, John
Curran, Charles Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Dalkeith, Earl of Loveridge, John Sutcliffe, John
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. MacArthur, Ian Sutcliffe, John
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McLaren, Martin Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McLaren, Martin Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Drayson, G. B. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Dykes, Hugh Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Tebbit, Norman
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Maddan, Martin Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Madel, David Tilney, John
Eyre, Reginald Marten, Neil Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Mather, Carol Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Fidler, Michael Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Vickers, Dame Joan
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Maxwell-Hyslop R. J. Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Fortescue, Tim Meyer, Sir Anthony Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Gibson-Watt, David Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W) Weatheril, Bernard
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Goodhart, Philip Moate, Roger Wilkinson, John
Goodhew, Victor Molyneaux, James Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gorst, John Money, Ernie Woodnutt, Mark
Gower, Raymond Montgomery, Fergus Worsley, Marcus
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) More, Jasper
Green, Alan Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grieve, Percy Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Mr. Walter Clegg and
Gummer, Selwyn Mudd, David Mr. Hector Monro.
Booth, Albert Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) John, Brynmor Richard, Ivor
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Kaufman, Gerald Roderick, Caerwyn E. Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Kinnock, Neil Sillars, James
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) McCartney, Hugh Skinner, Dennis
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) McElhone, Frank Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Concannon, J. D. Mackenzie, Gregor Swain, Thomas
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) McNamara, J. Kevin Tinn, James
Dalyell, Tam Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney. C.) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Whitehead, Phillip
Eadie, Alex Mendelson, John
Gilbert, Dr. John Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Golding, John Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Mr. James Wellbeloved and
Hamling, William Moyle, Roland Mr. Michael English.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) O'Halloran, Michael

Question, That the Amendment be made, put accordingly, and agreed to.

Motion made and Question proposed, That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be adjourned.—[Mr. Maudling.]

Mr. Callaghan

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful indeed to the Home Secretary for that swift movement to the Dispatch Box. It was the fastest I have seen him move in the last 25 years. He managed to beat me to it by about a tenth of a second, because, oddly enough, the same thought had crossed my mind.

It was quite clear that the Government Benches were in revolt and that they could not bear the sight of cold steel. There were 143 of them kept out of their beds, and 143 to 36 is a very good dividend.

It reminds me, Mr. Speaker—and you have listened patiently to our previous debate on fire hazards in churches—of the Mission and Soapy Smith in Alaska. He preached in a church—indeed, it was a tent—which did not have many precautions against fire hazards. During the summer when the mosquitoes were troublesome he held his congregation very well indeed, but when the winter came they thought it was necessary to get out of the tent and into a church which had proper fire precautions. So that Soapy Smith, who was a very great gambler in Alaska, started off by contributing 1,000 dollars so that he could get the church built with proper fire precautions. The Mission spent the whole day going round the place collecting money. He finished up at night with 36,000 dollars. On his way home, he was set upon, knocked down and robbed of the lot.

Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)

By a Tory.

Mr. Callaghan

No. Everybody commiserated with him. Next day, however. Soapy Smith was seen walking round Yukon saying, "Not bad odds, 36 to one." That is what we have done to the Government benches tonight.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that the Bill deals with fire precautions in Alaska.

Mr. Callaghan

That is a great pity, Mr. Speaker; nor in Northern Ireland, I understand.

We want to give the Government our wholehearted support on this. There have been no lengthy speeches. There was one complaint of a lengthy speech. Whoever said that should have seen my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) in full flight a few years ago and, seconding him very closely, Mr. Leslie Hale. Hon. Members would then have a taste of what long speeches really are.

The Bill should come on at 3.30 in the afternoon. It is an important Bill. It should never have been put on at 10 o'clock at night after an all-night Sitting. If only the Government would get their priorities right and get rid of the miserable and irrelevant anti-strike Bill that they are peddling, they would find that business in the House would be able to start at a reasonable time in the afternoon and discussions could be held in a convenient, decent and civilised manner.

That cannot be, however, and as it is clear that the occupants of the Government benches look tired and wilted, as they do, clearly in a state of revolt against the Whips—they cannot hold a House —the only decent thing in mercy is that we should allow the Government to go home and refresh themselves for the morrow. They have more battles to fight, more debates to conduct. We should give them the opportunity of replenishing their batteries. Although they cannot have a good night's sleep in terms of conscience, nevertheless they will be able to get themselves recharged for the further long Sittings that, no doubt, we shall have to have as long as the Government insist on putting on important business at 10 o'clock at night. On the whole, I recommend my hon. Friends not to vote against the Home Secretary's Motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be further considered this day.

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